A news story that is a complete work of fiction, but is bound to happen eventually…
Jerry Fielding is a fourth generation Fielding Santa Claus, following in the proud family footsteps of his father Elmer, his grandfather Richard, and his great-grandfather William “Santa Billy” Fielding. The Fielding men have all loved being the street corner and department store Santa Claus for literally millions of people for nearly 100 years, each greeting strangers and shoppers with a smile and “Ho-Ho-Ho,” but none of his three predecessors faced the specter of what Jerry Fielding was faced with last week.
Jerry Fielding was fired by Jewels Department Store.
Fielding, 42, was apparently kicked to the curb for doing something considered radical, outlandish and as one shopper ironically quipped, “Un-Christmas-like.”
Jerry Fielding’s offense? He was telling kids the real story of Christmas.
“We hired him to be Santa Claus, not to evangelize,” said Jewels Public Relations representative Stephanie Johnson. “If we’d hired him to stand inside a manger telling the story of baby Jesus it would be one thing, but we were paying him to wear a red suit, listen to children’s Christmas wishes and smile for a photo – not preach.”
Fielding takes no issue with the criticism and insists that he and his fellow Fielding Santas have been telling kids and parents about the birth of Jesus Christ for a long, long time and that it only recently became an issue when one parent – a self-proclaimed atheist – videotaped Fielding’s conversation about Christ with his son and posted the video on YouTube. Within hours, the clip – a rough and grainy 47 seconds where Fielding as Santa is telling 4-year-old Steven Richards about why we call it Christmas and about Christ’s’ birth – received better than three million views on YouTube in a single day (not quite Bieber or Gangnam-esque, but close). The boy’s father Billy Richards, 38, then began appearing on local and national talk shows lambasting Fielding and the department store for “corrupting his son with religion” and “infringing on his personal liberties.”
Richards, who declined interview requests for this story at the advice of his attorney, screamed and yelled loud enough, and his “Santa Jesus Freak” YouTube clip gained enough attention that the Jewels chain had little choice but to listen and watch the debate with an ear open to popular opinion and an eye on profit margins, and made what they claim was a “difficult decision” to part ways with Fielding.
“Santa Claus is a beloved institution,” said Johnson. “We don’t need to make this about religion. It’s about Christmas.”
Fielding chuckled when told about the official statements coming from Jewels but harbors no animosity.
“I understand and know that to share the truth of Christmas, to inform people that Jesus Christ is Lord and to take a stand for souls and salvation is one to not be taken lightly and I had to expect persecution,” he said. “In fact, Jesus guaranteed it.”
For their part, most Jewels shoppers interviewed for this story were unaware that they and their children were being educated about the true meaning of Christmas, but some remember the conversations well.
“We were there the day before he was fired and he was a great Santa,” said Ted Sizemore of Los Angeles. “I can still hear him telling my daughter about the baby Jesus and reminding her to be a good little girl. He winked at me and asked me if Jesus was my Lord and Savior and I told him yes sir and amen.”
Others were not so supportive.
“I wouldn’t go so far as to fire the guy, but to hit us all over the head like he was with all of his Jesus stuff was just so weird, so un-Christmas-like,” said shopper Becky Carmichael, who had taken her daughter Carlie to see Fielding as Santa Claus just before he was fired. “I’m not sure why so many people want to make this a religious thing. Why can’t it be all about peace on earth and goodwill towards man?”
Fielding sees the irony in her statement but also recalled the last thing Carlie said to him as he handed her a lollipop.
“She told me that she loves Jesus too,” Fielding said.
As his video goes viral and his gig with Jewels is now a thing of the past, Fielding has taken his Santa suit to a local soup kitchen where he will dish out warm food for the less fortunate and the true story of Christmas for all who’ll receive it.
“Merry Christmas,” said Fielding, as he left to serve a meal. “Jesus loves you.”